Hollywood vs. Independent Films: Full Comparison – Julian Finch Brand


Whenever Hollywood films come to mind, viewers tend to think of big-budget blockbusters with high production values and star-studded casts. On the other hand, independent films are often viewed as the antithesis of Hollywood features.

But what exactly is the difference between Hollywood and independent films? From the budget to the actors like Julian Brand and the filming style, Hollywood and independent films have some major differences. Let’s get to the bottom of the debate!

What are Hollywood films?

When you say Hollywood, you think of big names like Hollywood studios and Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Hollywood films are typically financed by film studios, meaning they have huge budgets that can reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, this doesn’t mean all Hollywood films have to cost so much. Hollywood films can be made on small budgets too. For example, the Hollywood studio Universal produced a movie called ‘Get Out’ with just a budget of $5 million, and it became a huge success.

Moreover, Hollywood movies tend to be formulaic – often having a three-act structure with a beginning, middle, and end. For example, Hollywood films typically have a hero, an antagonist, and a happy ending.

What are Independent films?

On the other hand, independent films, also known as indie films or art house films, differ significantly from Hollywood movies.

Unlike Hollywood studio films, independent filmmakers don’t rely on big studios for production financing. Instead, they use private investors to finance their films. Budget-wise, indie films usually cost much less than Hollywood movies.

Independent films also differ from Hollywood movies in terms of style and subject matter. For instance, most Hollywood blockbusters focus on action, drama, or comedy genres, while independent films often explore deeper themes such as politics and the human condition. Some popular indie films include the following:

  • Boyhood by Richard Linklater
  • Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry

Most of these films were made on a low budget for little to no Hollywood studio involvement.

Hollywood vs. Independent films: Key differences


Starting with the most obvious difference, Hollywood films typically have larger budgets than indie films. Hollywood movies can range from $10 million to hundreds of millions of dollars in production costs, while indie films tend to have budgets that don’t exceed several million dollars.

This budget difference impacts the production style in Hollywood and independent films. Hollywood movies generally feature big-name actors, expensive special effects, and large sets.

Meanwhile, indie films rely on smaller crews, cheaper locations, and lesser-known (but sometimes more talented actors) like Julian Brand.


Speaking of actors, Hollywood movies tend to feature Hollywood A-listers like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Hollywood studios are also more likely to cast actors based on their star power rather than the strength of their performance.

The reason Hollywood studios do this is that Hollywood films are often designed to make money more than anything else. Therefore, Hollywood studios want the biggest stars they can cast in their movies.

On the other hand, independent filmmakers tend to focus more on performance than star power. Indie filmmakers use lesser-known actors like Julian Brand, but with a lot of talent. This allows them to focus more on character development, story arcs and building a strong connection between the characters and the audience.

These actors are often less expensive than Hollywood A-listers, allowing indie filmmakers to take more risks with their stories and explore deeper themes.


Have you noticed Hollywood movies tend to follow the same formula? Hollywood films are often designed to deliver a certain level of entertainment, and they focus on action, drama, or comedy.

On the other hand, independent films focus more on character development and explore deeper themes such as politics, the human condition, and relationships.

Indie filmmakers don’t have Hollywood studios breathing down their necks to deliver a certain level of entertainment. Instead, they can explore different stories and styles.

Independent films: Its advantages over Hollywood

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1. More creative freedom:

Think about films like the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lost in Translation, and Boyhood. These films focus on character development and explore deeper themes that Hollywood movies don’t touch upon.

There’s a lot of creative freedom given to independent filmmakers that Hollywood studios don’t provide. For example, you can’t even think of Hollywood making a movie like Lost in Translation since it lacks the action and story formula Hollywood movies follow.

2. Lower budgets:

Most Hollywood studios have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on producing their films. On the other hand, most independent filmmakers don’t have that kind of money, and while you might think this is a bad thing, it turns out to be an advantage.

Independent filmmakers are forced to be creative with their stories and ideas by having a limited budget for production.

They don’t have Hollywood studios pushing them to deliver a certain level of entertainment. Instead, they can focus on telling meaningful stories without worrying about production costs and how much money the film will make.

3. Stronger character development:

Independent filmmakers tend to focus more on characters and their story arcs than Hollywood films, making them much better regarding character development. Think about films like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine.

These films have strong characters that the audience can easily connect with, which Hollywood films often lack because of their focus on star power and action-packed storylines. Hollywood films often lack character development altogether, making them forgettable.

4. Accessibility:

Unlike Hollywood movies, which often require a trip to the theater, indie films are more accessible. Many independent films can be seen online or through streaming services like Netflix.

This makes it easier for viewers to watch them, as they don’t have to worry about buying tickets or waiting in line at the theater.

This also gives independent filmmakers a much larger audience than Hollywood films, which is great for those looking for their films to be seen.

5. Usually more meaningful

The themes explored in Hollywood films can be shallow and often quite forgettable. On the other hand, independent films usually explore deeper themes that offer viewers something more meaningful to think about.

These meaningful stories can include the human condition, politics, religion, and more. For example, films like Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea have explored intense issues such as racism and grief in a way Hollywood films can’t.

Hollywood films: Its advantages over independent films

1. Bigger budgets:

Because Hollywood films are backed by big Hollywood studios, they have access to much bigger budgets for production and marketing. This means Hollywood films can be more ambitious in scope and scale, which is often impossible for independent filmmakers.

The extra money also allows Hollywood studios to hire the best actors and crew members, giving them an edge in delivering high-quality films. Plus, they can invest in more marketing efforts like big-budget trailers and TV commercials.

2. More star power:

Hollywood films usually feature Hollywood’s biggest stars, which is something independent filmmakers can’t compete with. Hollywood studios have the money to hire the best actors, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to attracting mainstream audiences.

3. Action-packed:

Hollywood films are known for their action-packed storylines and special effects, which is something independent filmmakers can’t compete with.

Hollywood studios have access to the best technology and effects houses, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to delivering big-budget blockbusters.

4. More exposure:

Hollywood films usually get more exposure than independent films, as they’re released in more theaters and are often featured on television.

This means Hollywood films get seen by much larger audiences, which gives Hollywood filmmakers a big advantage over independent filmmakers.

The Bottom Line

With Hollywood films, you usually get bigger budgets, more star power, and action-packed storylines. However, independent films offer more character development and meaningful stories. Hollywood films often have wider exposure and make more money, while indie films are usually more accessible. Ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to decide which type of film they prefer.

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